In early January of this year, I got an idea after watching a news story about our Community Food Bank. The food bank was struggling to meet the demands placed on it by a shrinking economy and an ever-expanding unemployment rate. I thought, “If every neighbor in Tucson—nearly one million of them—donated one can of food a week, we could eliminate hunger in our city.”
I decided to make this idea my personal community service. Within a week, I created a neighborhood food donation program called “One Can A Week.” I printed flyers that explained the program, compiled a list of potential donors and made “Thank You” and “Sorry We Missed You” cards.
That first Sunday, I nervously approached my closest neighbors and asked them to participate. I explained to them that they could put the can/s of food on the porch and that I would stop by every Sunday to pick it up. I would leave a “Thank You” card so that they would know I was the one who took the can. If they did not have a can, I would leave a “Sorry We Missed You” card and stop by the following Sunday. Every neighbor I talked to that first Sunday—about 10 in all—agreed to participate in the Community Food Bank donation program.
On the second Sunday, my personal community service program began in earnest. I was even more nervous than the week before, because this was the true test. Were my neighbors just being nice and agreeing to participate just to get me off their front porch or were they serious about doing something for their community?
At 11:30AM on the dot, I left my house – shopping bag, clipboard, note cards and flyers in hand. There it was on the porch of my next-door neighbor: the first can. I was so excited and nervous when picking up the can that I dropped all of the “Thank You” cards. Then there was a can at the next house and the next one, too. All 10 neighbors had a can ready.
After collecting the first ten cans, I stopped by and talked to the rest of the neighbors on my block and the next. Most said they would participate. Many darted into their house, returning with a can or two in hand. The first official Sunday collection netted 20 pounds of food. I delivered it to the food bank the next morning. That was a proud day.
Today, the Miles Neighborhood Community Food Bank One Can A Week food donation program is in its 26th week. Out of the 200 families living in Miles Neighborhood, approximately 130 participate. Three of my neighbors have stepped up and now help me collect food each Sunday. A few others have inquired about getting involved. In our first quarter of activity, we collected an average 117 pounds of food per week. In our second quarter we averaged 247 pounds per week. In our first six months, we collected enough food to feed 1,131 people three meals a day. And our program is growing, too!
Each Saturday, I man a booth at the local Safeway Supermarket to enlist other neighborhoods in the One Can A Week food donation program. Barrio San Antonio, the neighborhood adjacent to mine, signed up 4 weeks ago and is already donating 60 pounds of food a week.
Even this past 4th of July holiday weekend, we collected 134 pounds of food and $25.00 in cash. What a great way to break into the third quarter!
This is a real community doing real community service.
Peter’s One Can a Week program donates to the Community Food Bank. To follow in Peter’s footsteps, find your local food bank at http://feedingamerica.org/get-involved.aspx or keyword search: “hunger” “food bank” “food drive.”